[EDITORIALS]Don’t let emotion rule the dayIn the wake of the Tokto and history textbook controversies, it was no wonder that the Korean government made a declaration of resolute principles concerning relations with Japan. The government may well take the further step of easing the ban on travel to Tokto by the general public, thereby allowing the island to become populated. What is necessary now is to act on these principles in a calm and consistent fashion.
In doing so, the amicable relationship between the two countries that has taken a long time to build should not be destroyed. Korea, in particular, should not become overly sensitive or emotional about the issue and take steps that would insure disastrous results.
It is worrisome that the National Assembly committees created to address the Tokto and history textbook issues have already begun to talk about cancelling the fishery agreement between the two countries.
According to some observers, ending the agreement would, in a nutshell, drag Korea into Japan’s strategy. By international law, a midway sea line determining a new Exclusive Economic Zone would then be drawn, using Korea’s Ulleung island and Japan’s Oki island as points of measurement.
That would put Tokto in Korea’s fishing zone, but Daehwatoe, the most productive fishing region in the East Sea, would be lost to Japan. We should keep in mind that during the 1998 negotiations, the countries agreed to designate the seas surrounding Tokto as a jointly controlled fishing zone on the condition that Korea obtain the rights to half of Daehwatoe.
Annulling the agreement would also disrupt the current maritime order in the East Sea. If the agreement is cancelled, some scholars say, the current “flag state” principle of international maritime law ― under which states are responsible for cracking down on their own ships’ illegal fishing on the high seas ― would be replaced in the East Sea by the coastal state principle, under which coastal states have enforcement rights. That would leave Korea at a disadvantage, according to these scholars. We have to keep in mind the analysis of some experts that Shimane prefecture’s declaration of “Takeshima Day” was intended to provoke Korea into cancelling the fishery agreement. We therefore urge the Korean government and the people to be levelheaded.
It is also regrettable that Japanese businesses in Korea such as Fuji-Xerox and Olympus have suffered from inaccurate reporting by Korean broadcasters. Some broadcasters incorrectly reported that these businesses supported the proposed Japanese history textbooks that whitewashed imperial Japan; because of this, Koreans started boycotting their products. We should not compromise principles of fairness and openness over Tokto and the textbooks.
A new perspective is also necessary on Korea’s love for Tokto. We may learn from a Japanese example. The Japanese central government made the Ogasawara islands, which are 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from mainland Japan, part of Tokyo province so that the Tokyo government, the most affluent local government in Japan, can support them. That is how Japan secures control over its seas and islands. The Korean government should proceed in a consistent, confident way with policies to populate Tokto. We have to make such efforts so that Dokto can become incontrovertibly ours, and our national interests can be realized.
There has been enough emotional roaring over Tokto for now. There will be time to amend the fishery agreement once Tokdo is recognized as a populated island under international law.